Raising Arizona - Nicolas Cage-a-Thon Part One
Written by Samantha Wolfe
Every once in a while, I get an overwhelming desire to watch a Nicolas Cage film. I, like many people, have a fascination with him. His entire filmography consists of either extremely good movies or extremely bad movies. Often, his films are both. Finally, I decided to have a Nicolas Cage marathon, watching one Nick Cage film after another, and discussing them here in a weekly column. My brain may rot.
Nicolas Cage-a-thons are not a new concept, youtuber Ralph Sepe has done them on his channel, and youtuber Jenna Marbles has casually discussed her recent dive into Nic’s catalogue as well. When I logged my first Cage film on letterboxd, writer for this site Sophia texted me to let me know she decided to do the exact same thing. Why is Nick Cage so interesting?
For this column, I likely won’t mention every Nick Cage film I watch, but rather especially funny, wild, or interesting ones. I do log every film on my letterboxd, however (yes, that’s a shameless plug). I will also be judging each of his performances based on three factors (general level of unhingedness, level of fun, and overall quality of his performance).
THE FILM - RAISING ARIZONA
Raising Arizona is a 1987 Coen Brothers film about a former cop Ed (Holly Hunter) and ex-convict H.I. (Nicolas Cage) who, after finding out they couldn’t conceive on their own, steal an infant from a family that just had quintuplets One thing after another goes wrong for the couple and (spoiler alert) eventually return the baby to the family. John Goodman and William Forsythe also star as brothers Gale and Evelle, who broke out of prison and decide to stay with H.I.
We aren’t here to discuss this film though, we are here for one man and one man only: The Cage.
First off, Cage IS a good actor here. At moments he feels completely berserk, but the cast around him does a great job at keeping up. When he shouts, and his voice rises and descends volume seemingly at the same time, those around him follow suit. This leads to the film feeling genuinely bonkers at times, yet still under control. The film never starts to lose touch or feel out of control, due mostly to the Coen brothers excellent direction.
On set, the Coens reported that working with Cage was difficult, and he would improvise several actions and lines that later had to be edited out. I noticed some of these moments even before I knew about this. Nic often makes EXTREMELY expressive facial expressions, flails his body, and shouts expletives that no one around him quite acknowledges, and often the camera cuts him off before he gets a chance to finish. I feel this is going to be a recurring theme in his filmography.
Raising Arizona was a good place to start for this marathon. Nicolas is unhinged, but in a way that suits him. His instability is backed by a purposefully unstable character and an excellent cast. It’s no surprise to me, however, that the Coens never worked with Cage again, despite regularly working with several other cast members (John Goodman and Holly Hunter even starred together again in Brother, Where Art Thou in 2000).
From here, I look forward to the next Nicolas Cage film, which will likely be David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. I expect Cage and Lynch to be a good match for filmmaking. Both have an alien-like energy, I’m not convinced either are completely human. Maybe I’ve just uncovered some kind of secret. I’ll let you know what I find out next week.
RAISING ARIZONA PERFORMANCE SCORE:
Level of Unhinge: 7.5/10
Level of Fun: 9/10
Overall Quality: 8.25/10